by Donato

I thought I would revisit one of my first posts here on Muddy Colors in the light of the release of my new DVD Painting Joan of Arc where I paint loads of flesh, from two faces to eight different hands. While I talked about the theory of painting with ‘mud’ in those original posts, I did not offer practical examples for how to implement the knowledge. Over the past few years I have developed and expanded upon the ‘mud puddle’ and have now given a few lectures at classes, conventions and an extensive survey within the film. I now feel a bit more comfortable talking about this process, but hang with me, I am still learning! Below is a short summary of the mud approach with a real painting as an example!

Detail of ‘The Tower of Cirth Ungol’
original oil 48″ x 36″

Here I have selected four areas of flesh from Frodo. All from the same figure. All from areas that might be ‘identical’ if taken from the skin of the model as a local color outside the context of this lighting arrangement.

Here we see the samples isolated, the way you might mix each color individually on a white palette. notice how dark they appear out of context of their surrounding values and colors.

A neutral tone of gray is provided to show how gray is seen as a cool ‘blue-ish’ tone against the warmth of these samples.

Lastly a dark brown swatch is laid in to display the samples in a value arrangement closer to the painting and how these ‘dark’ samples now glow with light! Note, I have not manipulated the swatches at all, just the background/surrounding context!

Color is all relative, thus my reasoning for painting with a mud-puddle on my palette as opposed to mixing individual local colors as I need them. Every point in which you place the brush to sample the oils, you can find a color warmer, cooler, darker and lighter than your selection. If I reach the edges of my puddle, I can always expand outward as necessary. The puddle is a wonderful way to also limit your color choices if you are looking to control certain aspects of your painting process.

There is also no absolute color to start painting flesh with. Your first choice will then dictate what the next value or color needs to be. A slight move across the palette shifts the overall temperature of your skin, but the inherent local relationships will remain the same.

Here are the samples from the flesh of Frodo as I might have selected and mixed them from the palette. Each sample was then surrounded by a selection of colors from nearby on the palette to present the sample as warm, cool, light or dark.

Color is all relative, the greatest difficulty is making that first choice!
Give it a try, and best of luck.